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Booms and Busts

We have so far emphasized that bank credit expansion under fractional-reserve banking (or “creation of counterfeit warehouse receipts”) creates price inflation, loss of purchasing power of the currency unit, and redistribution of wealth and income. Euphoria caused by a pouring of new money into the economy is followed by grumbling as price inflation sets in, and some people benefit while others lose. But inflationary booms are not the only consequence of fractional-reserve counterfeiting. For at some point in the process, a reaction sets in. An actual bank run might set in, sweeping across the banking system; or banks, in fear of such a run, might suddenly contract their credit, call in and not renew their loans, and sell securities they own, in order to stay solvent. This sudden contraction will also swiftly contract the amount of warehouse receipts, or money, in circulation. In short, as the fractional-reserve system is either found out or in danger of being found out, swift credit contraction leads to a financial and business crisis and recession. There is no space here to go into a full analysis of business cycles, but it is clear that the credit-creation process by the banks habitually generates destructive boom-bust cycles.9

  • 9. For more on business cycles, see Murray N. Rothbard, “The Positive Theory of the Cycle,” in America's Great Depression, 4th ed. (New York: Richardson & Snyder, 1983), pp. 11–38.